My 33 1/3 book, on Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Volume II, was the 5th bestselling book in the series in 2014. It's available at Amazon (including Kindle) and via your local bookstore. • F.A.Q.Key Tags: #saw2for33third, #sound-art, #classical, #juntoElsewhere: Twitter, SoundCloud, Instagram

Listening to art.
Playing with audio.
Sounding out technology.
Composing in code.

tag: voice

Kelli Cain and Brian Crabtree of Monome (Live Video)

Recorded in San Francisco earlier this year.

It’s not common to post the same audio here twice, but I’m making an exception for the half-hour concert by Kelli Cain and Brian Crabtree, developers of the Monome grid music interface. Back in March I linked to the SoundCloud file of the live performance (“What the Creators of the Monome Sound Like as Live Performers”), and updated that page in April when a higher grade recording went up. But now there’s full, affectionately edited video of the set. It’s at I attended the concert, which was held at a small shop, Better, out on Balboa Street in San Francisco’s Richmond District, and in the review I mention in particular this social component of Crabtree’s employment of handheld shakers: “He’d shake one for awhile, and then pass it to someone in the audience to continue the pattern. Each person became an extension of what Crabtree had started, but then altered it a little, whether through the conscious decision to contribute a musical idea, or simply because their sense of rhythm differed from his.” That occurs about two minutes into this footage.

The video was shot by the Mill Valley, California–based duo Fabián Aguirre and Maya Pisciotto, who go by More on Better at More on the Monome, Cain, and Crabtree at

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Sarah Davachi on Old Synthesizers and New Ways of Listening

As a guest on Marc Kate's excellent Why We Listen podcast


So, on Monday I wrote about the drones of Valiska. On Tuesday I wrote about the old-school synthesizer explorations of Sarah Davachi, focusing on her new album, Dominions. After posting that piece, I came to learn that the two musicians, coincidentally, know each other and are, in fact, playing a show together on May 5. On Wednesday I (purposefully) wrote about one of the musicians also playing a set on that same bill. And on Thursday I learned that Davachi is the guest on the latest edition, #36, of the Why We Listen podcast — furthering the coincidence factor, because I was the guest on #35.

The podcast is hosted by musician Marc Kate, who listens to and discusses three (or so) pieces of music with each guest. It’s a genius format to focus the podcast listener’s attention on Kate’s subject, because we listen to him listen. Davachi brought with her Dennis Wilson’s “Mexico,” James Tenney’s “Critical Band,” and John Frusciante’s “Untitled #11” and “Untitled #12.” In addition to talking about the pieces, Davachi talks about her own performance and compositional work. Subjects include moving from piano to synthesizer, working at a musical instrument museum, and bringing her “fidelity standards” down. There’s a great moment when she talks about how ambient music makes listeners uncomfortable because they don’t know — lost in the timeless-ness of it, in contrast with the attention-deficit nature of much pop culture — “what to do with their hands.”

The podcast is available at and on iTunes at This link goes to the MP3 for direct download. More from Sarah Davachi, who is based in Montréal, Québec, at

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The Sixteen-Millimeter Fractal

A work of percussive wordplay by Erika Nesse


I wrote about Erika Nesse’s fractal music about a month ago (“A Nautilus of Percussive Expressivity”), and she just posted this week another example that’s well worth a listen. Titled “You Can Wish It All Away,” the short piece, not even two full minutes in length, takes tiny snippets of source audio, in this case a woman speaking, and renders from them a slowly evolving rhythmic flurry. Slivers of syllables — not whole verbal sounds but mere bits of them, so even the softest vowel can serve as a plosive thanks to a hard truncation — become an ever-changing fantasy of computer-generated beatcraft.

Two moments seem to suggest that the piece isn’t directly the result of a computer using fractals to break and reformat the source, but that Nesse herself plays a role in the work’s composition — that she is using the fractal algorithm as a source for musical development, much as the algorithm itself is using the original source audio. The first of these moments appears at about the one-minute mark, when the previously furious mix of layered sounds gives way to a harshly minimalist, staccato metric. The second is at the end, when the original sample audio is heard in full, revealing itself as a line from an early episode of The Twilight Zone: “If I wish hard enough, I can wish it all away.” That’s the main character, a former film star, speaking in the episode titled “The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine.”

Track originally posted at More from Nesse, who’s based in Boston, at and Film clip screenshot via

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Lesley Flanigan Sings to the Machine

A preview of her forthcoming album, Hedera

Lesley Flanigan - Hedera - Crane Arts 01 - 560px

In advance of the album’s release, Lesley Flanigan has posted one track off Hedera for streaming. “Can Barely Feel My Feet” is a layering of her voice, the soft, insistent, prayer-like vowels starting off as a handful of parallel processes but then gathering in denser and denser substructures. At times the intonations bead against each other, the slight variations creating hushed, genteel moiré patterns.

By the end, all that remains is the moiré, a buzzing electronic field where once there was were human voices. The album is due out April 8. The main track on the album, the title piece, has yet to be provided for streaming, but there’s a segment of it in this video, in which Flanigan’s electronically processed vocals are heard against a rhythm provided, apparently, by a malfunctioning tape deck.

Track originally posted at More on Hedera at More from Flanigan, who is based in New York, at

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Why We Listen

I talk with Marc Kate about surface noise, classical motifs, and the reversal of Aphex Twin

Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 5.04.04 PM

Major thanks to Marc Kate of the Why We Listen podcast for having included me in its ever growing catalog of conversations. My entry, released a few days ago, is the 35th in Kate’s Why We Listen series. Previous participants include many folks I admire, including Morgan Packard, Richard Chartier, Cara Rose DeFabio, Erik Davis, Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, Holly Herndon, Leyland Kirby, Bob Ostertag, Geeta Dayal, and Keith Hennessy.

For each episode of Why We Listen, Kate asks the guest to bring three pieces of music, and then you sit in his studio and listen to them together and talk about them. I selected a piece of turntablism sound art by Maria Chavez, “Kids- TRIAL 18 (Unfinished),” a work of classical minimalism by Madeleine Cocolas, “I Can See You Whisper,” and an Aphex Twin rarity “Avril 14th reversed music not audio.”

A direct link to the MP3 file is here: The iTunes link is here: More on the episode at

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